by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Farmers continue the call for a more multi-ministerial approach to developing and advancing the Agricultural sector in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Solomon Morton, a local farmer and member of the St. Kitts Farmers Cooperative, was on the May 17 broadcast of WINN’s Island Tea to address the 25 per cent reduction in the Federation’s food import bill by 2025.
The farmer said without preparation now; the goal is likely to fail.
“It’s not about a group of farmers now; it’s about St. Kitts, and it’s about moving St. Kitts forward. For example, we often brag that we have the best land in the Caribbean, and many people are seeing that when they come, and they see. And yet we are lagging in production; why? We would hear the politicians get on the air and say, “Oh, the food import bill is so high.” But what are we doing? What are we putting in place to reduce that bill? I’ll start by looking at the term that has been kicked around like a football 25 by 25. Which to me is farfetched because if you’re going to reduce your import by 25%, which is a quarter of what you’re bringing in, you must have something in place to take the place of that 25%.” – local farmer Solomon Morton.
He added, “You must be prepared to niche something, create a market, create an avenue so that you can take care of that 25%. It might be 5% in one area, one in another, but when it adds up, it should be 25%. But what’s happening? Nothing. And yet we keep bragging about 25 by 25. So how is it [going to] happen? Drop out of the sky? The cow has jumped over the moon years ago, and it still hasn’t landed as yet. So how are we going to land? What is our base for moving forward? Up to now, we have not had a strategic plan as to how we plan to tackle this. What we’re going to implement to get it going forward? And it is insulting for intelligent people who know what it is – who know what all these plans and processes [are] about to hear us bragging about something we are not prepared to handle. It is said that preparation is 90% of the job. The other 10% is execution – and if we don’t prepare, then we are preparing to fail, and those people in authority need to understand that.”
As Morton suggested, food security continues to be a looming Sustainable Development Goal for St. Kitts and Nevis and the Region as CARICOM adopted that goal in 2020 as a way to fulfill one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all of which are aimed to be achieved by 2030.
Hon. Samal Duggins, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources, during the Prime Minister’s press conference on May 18, assured the public that a strategic plan as it relates to the way forward for Agriculture and Fisheries and towards the 25 by 25 goal is coming.
“However, I’m confident to say that we have, since then, spent some time analysing the data. Because with anything, you have to know where you are – where you’ve been to construct property where you’re going. And in analysing the data, we see a clear path forward for us to be as successful in that 25 by 25 agenda. Beyond analysing the data, we have met with livestock farmers, we have met with the fisherfolk, and we are meeting with the crop farmers next week. And our plan coming out of that – those meetings will be to collate all that data, properly fashioned the entire way forward, which we will launch in July.”
The Federation has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Evergreen in collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank for a fish farm and processing facility to bolster the fisheries industry in the Federation. Additionally, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) will support St. Kitts and Nevis with a hatchery for help in the area of poultry, again reducing food imports.
The Agriculture Minister outlined other initiatives in the works.
“We are also launching our Greenhouse Villages and that concept… we plan to break ground on that in July. Along with that, we are now instituting a Drought Resilience Project, considering where we are currently – we are suffering one of the worst droughts in the last 20 to 30 years, and that is impacting our agriculture sector. I met with the Prime Minister last week, and we met with Finance and the Water Department to bring all stakeholders together to ensure that we bring a proper and sustainable approach to drought management. And so once we would have completed the series of meetings to hear directly from the persons on the ground – their own grievances and their own ideas – we want to put a very comprehensive plan which we will highlight and launch this coming July.”
Duggins said prior to taking office in 2022, there had not been any substantial buy-in from the Federation in achieving the 25 by 25 goal.
The Agriculture Minister said he was very optimistic about the Federation’s ability to be a success story and urged stakeholders in the sector to have a vested interest in making the goal a reality.